The Rules of Friendship

When schoolyard play goes south, you might need to help your child revisit the rules of good friendship. For some kids, finding a friend is not that easy.

Friendship skills are taught, practiced, and honed. Heather Johnson, of The Family Volley shares how to get a handle on those essential relationship skills that start on the playground.

We’re not born a good friend. Kids grow into these skills and need help from parents and other adults to learn the rules of friendship. Keep in mind, we’re aiming for the key characteristics of a good friend, like:

· Helpful to others
· Positive
· Kind
· Has the ability to share
· Can keep confidences
· Listens to others thoughts and ideas
· Accepts mistakes
· Good winner and loser
· Can hold a conversation
· Gives and receives compliments

How can we help our children learn these key skills?

Explain what a good friend is …
Children don’t automatically know what it means to be a good friend. We have to teach them what that means.

Sit down with your child and make a list of all the characteristics of a good friend. Ask them what a good friend is to them. Good friends are KIND, PATIENT, NOT BOSSY, ACCEPTING OF OTHER’S IDEAS, etc… Help them understand what a good friend is.

Once your child has a better understanding of what it means to be a good friend, Challenge them to be that kind of friend. Kids need to treat others the way they want to be treated. If they are not kind to others, how can they expect others to be kind to them? They can’t

Role Play, Role Play, Role Play
Talk through scenarios like:
What do you do if you want to play with a group of friends who are already playing together?
What do you do if someone hurts your feelings?
What if you ask a friend to play and they say “no”.

We have been doing this with our son. He has been in a number of situations where he wants to join a group that is already playing. His first tendency has been to jump into the group and start sharing all his ideas and thoughts. This wasn’t working very well and he would come home saying kids didn’t want to play anything he suggested. We have been role playing the situations at home, and practicing joining a group. The importance of observing first, and then joining in without interrupting or being pushy. The more we practice, the less he complains about friendship struggles.

We can be friends with lots of kids.
Encourage your children to be friends with lots of kids, instead of being involved with exclusive groups. That way, no one feels left out, and your child will not have their feelings hurt when their friends play with other kids also.

Play “How would you feel… “
Ask your child how they would feel if someone was mean to them?
If, they were told they couldn’t play?
If, someone made fun of them?

This will introduce empathy and help your child see friendship from the other person’s point of view.

Play with your child. While you play, model what a good friend does and how a good friend acts. So they can learn directly from you, how to get along with others.

Provide opportunities to practice.
Have children over to your house to play, Carpool with other families, Involve your kids in an organized sport. Not only will this give kids a chance to practice, but it will give you a good opportunity to observe how your children act with friends.

Be a good example.
We need to show our children how to be a good example. How?

· Listen to our children without criticizing.
· Be kind to others, wave when neighbors drive by, do things for others.
· Show empathy to others.
· Don’t complain.
· Accept shortcomings from yourself and others.
· Compliment others; accept compliments.

Teach them what to do when they are rejected by a friend.

This will happen to every child, most likely more than once. It is hurtful and can feel like the world is ending. We want to talk to our children about these situations so they know what to do. And so they know that it is “normal”.

1. If your child is continually putting effort into a friendship and is not being accepted, It is okay to teach them to move on to someone who is more accepting. (this is trickier with teenagers, we don’t want them to move on to “the wrong crowd” just because they are looking to feel accepted.)

2. Don’t point out what they did wrong. It is not the time to say “I told you so.” When a friendship goes South, we need to show extra love to our children. The rejection has already made them feel vulnerable, they don’t need us to add salt to the wounds.

Learning the rules of friendship is one of the ways children develop into healthy human beings. We need to give our children the skills they need to be compassionate and confident in their relationships. They will be managing, maintaining and building friendships/relationships their entire lives.

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